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MeNZB vaccinations top 600,000 young people

27 September 2005

MeNZB vaccinations completed by more than 600,000 young people

More than 600,000 young New Zealanders have now completed their MeNZB vaccination and have received all three doses needed to help protect them against the country's meningococcal B epidemic.

That takes to nearly 2.5 million the total number of doses that have now been administered through schools and clinics as part of the Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme, the country's largest ever mass immunisation campaign.

"It is tremendously satisfying to see so many children and young people both starting and completing their vaccinations," says Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme director Dr Jane O'Hallahan. "More than 960,000 have now received their first dose, and that is a fantastic achievement."

The campaign is now surging ahead, with close to 20,000 doses a day being delivered at times during the school term.

Earlier predictions of a significant drop off in numbers completing all three doses are proving ill-founded. New reporting that tracks those overdue for vaccination shows that nationally only 3 percent are late for their third dose.

Dr O'Hallahan says "This is very good news because it is so important to complete the three doses. We are confident the strategies and hard work put in place by District Health Boards, doctors and nurses to encourage people to complete the full course are working, and will result in a very small drop off rate by the end of the programme."

She says the support for the immunisation programme from both the public and those working in the health and education sectors has been pivotal to its success.

?We set out with an ambitious target of vaccinating 90 per cent of all those aged 6 weeks to 19 years, and to date more than 81 per cent have started the programme. This is an incredible result.

"We are seeing evidence that the vaccine is providing good protection to those who are fully vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated remain at risk of the epidemic strain of the disease. Therefore it is critically important for everyone aged from six weeks to 19 years to complete the three doses," Dr O'Hallahan says.

The total number of notified cases of meningococcal disease for 2005 as at 23 September is 183 with 10 deaths. Not all of the cases reported in 2005 so far are due to the epidemic strain the vaccine is designed to protect against. The average number of cases per year for the last five years is 364. Since the epidemic began in 1991, the highest annual total recorded was in 2001 when there were 650 cases of meningococcal disease.

Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme - www.immunise.moh.govt.nz

ENDS

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